MAPLE PARK – It’s not about who get the most hits in baseball.
Lemont outhit Burlington Central 11-4. But the Rockets took advantage of some early defensive miscues to build an early lead and held on for a 5-4 win in the semifinals of the Class 3A Kaneland Sectional.
The Rockets took advantage of two Lemont errors to build a 5-0 lead after two innings, recording only three hits in the process.
Lemont (29-7) continued to chip away after that but could never catch up. It put the tying and winning runs in scoring position in the seventh inning, but Rockets starter Michael Person got Conor Murray to pop to Matthew Lemon at third base to end it.
The Rockets (21-17) will play the Sycamore-St. Francis winner in Saturday’s sectional championship.
Person pitched out of trouble all day long. Lemont had baserunners in every inning but wasn’t able to take full advantage, stranding 10.
Right fielder Mason Rosborough threw out Murray at the plate in the fourth to stifle a Lemont threat.
“I just had a great defense behind me, and I had to trust them to make the plays,” Person said. “It’s a great feeling going on and trying to win a sectional in this last game.
“It’s all about the mindset, minimizing the runs. Mason [Rosborough] in right field made a great throw to home plate. That saved a couple of runs. We just had great defensive plays all game and it really helped me on the mound.”
The Rockets jumped ahead in the first inning. Brady Gilroy walked, AJ Payton – who made several of those good defensive plays at first base – drove a single to left, and both came around on an error on Jake Johnson’s ground ball to shortstop.
In the second, Chase Pawrozek singled leading off. After a pair of walks to Mitchell Pedrigi and Lemon loaded the bases with one out, Person lined one to second base. It looked like Lemont was out of the inning with a double play, but the throw sailed past first, and Pawrozek scored. Gilroy followed with a double to bring in two more.
“We took advantage of a couple of miscues early in the game and it led to a couple of runs,” said Central coach Kyle Nelson. “Give Michael all the credit in the world. He had the traffic on the bases all day and he just pitched out of it. He threw great pitches when he needed to.”
Lemont started chipping away in the third. Luke Wallace and Dylan Swanstrom led off with singles and eventually scored on Joe Pender’s infield out and Brad Johnson’s single. Lemont drew closer as Wallace singled in a run in the third, and what looked like a comfortable margin for the Rockets got tighter.
Things got really tense in the seventh. Person got two quick outs sandwiched around a Pender double.
Pender moved up on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch. Pat Gardner and Gavin Kelby then singled. Kelby stole second to put the potential lead run in scoring position before Person got the final out.